Pyongyang looked like a ghost town on Thursday, thanks to governmental warnings on a natural phenomenon that some fear could spread the coronavirus. Per the BBC, state TV aired special weather advisories on Wednesday imploring residents to hunker down indoors and banning construction across North Korea due to seasonal "yellow dust" clouds that are originating in China. "All workers ... must clearly recognize the danger of invading malicious viruses," an article in the state-run Rodong Sinmum newspaper noted. Even foreign offices got a heads-up. "All foreigners in the DPRK are highly recommended from the morning to the end of the day ... [to] stay home, tightly closing the windows," wrote North Korea's Russian Embassy on its Facebook page.
Yonhap notes the yellow dust—a mix of desert sand and toxic dust—started sweeping in Tuesday from the Gobi Desert that stretches across China and Mongolia, as well as from Inner Mongolia's highlands. "Thoroughly preventing damages from the yellow dust ... is a pressing task to keep the quarantine front impenetrable," continued the Rodong Sinmum article, per NK News. Although the North insists the warning was needed due to research showing the coronavirus is airborne, others, including the CDC in the US, contend that transmitting the virus this way is very rare—people mainly get infected by being too close to someone who's got the virus and who then coughs, sneezes, or otherwise expels droplets into the air. At any rate, the streets in Pyongyang should start to fill up again over the weekend: The dust was said to have dissipated from the Korean Peninsula on Friday. (Read more North Korea stories.)